"The Most Beautiful English Village"

The tiny village of Bibury has long been recognised as one of the prettiest places in the Cotswolds and is much visited by tourists.  It is everything you might magine an old English village to be; so much so that some visitors, according to local gossip, not realising that it isn’t a theme park creation, walk into people’s homes to have a look around.

Ancient cottages in mellow Cotswold stone, a crystal clear, trout-filled river running alongside the main street, an old mill and a great pub offering food and accomodation all make Bibury “the most beautiful English village” as William Morris, the Arts and Crafts textile designer described it when he visited during the 1800’s.

The old cottages are so perfect and their setting so tranquil that they appear to have created an ethos amongst their owners: each house and garden has to be more well maintained than their neighbours.  The only weeds I saw there were across the river in the marsh and, of course, not only were they growing where they belong – in a wild setting – but there were only the most attractive ones such as Yellow Flags, the bog irises and the flat, white heads of the hogweeds.

No English village is complete without its church and pub and Bibury has both.  The church of St Mary’s dates back to the 12th century and is well worth seeking out for it is tucked away down one of Bibury’s few side streets.


If the church tries to remain hidden, no such claim can be made for The Swan, one of the landmark buildings situated on the bend where the road crosses the River Coln.  The creeper covered pub/hotel is a good place to watch the world go by although, rarely does a car go by without its occupants stopping to explore the village.  This is quite a problem for there are so many visitors and cars that to experience the tranquility of the place, or to get photographs such as those on this blog, you either need to stay overnight or to visit the village early in the day.  Looking at the online reviews for the Swan, I was amused to see that the only gripes were complaints about old furniture, no street lighting and no wifi or mobile phone signals – surely, some of the very best reasons for visiting!

It can almost be guaranteed that every calander of the Cotswolds will have a photograph of Arlington Row – probably on it’s front cover.  Set back away from the road, it is reached by a footbridge: a terrace of former 16th century weavers cottages which, in turn, were converted from a 13th century wool store.  The importance of wool in creating the wealth of the Cotswolds and its churches, including the development of the Cotswold breed of sheep, now endangered, has been described in earlier posts on this blog (click here).  For more on the Cotswold sheep and the work of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust to preserve them, click here.
Arlington Row’s importance in history of vernacular architecture was recognised by the Royal Society of Arts in 1929 when they purchased and restored it.  A plaque, commemorating this is set into a nearby wall.

Exploring Arlington Row gives visitors an opportunity to see just how higgledy-piggledy the construction of old house are.  The old stone walls and mismatched rooflines and windows are juxtaposed seemingly at random – a modern planning departments nightmare.

Despite, the large numbers of tourists (for we all like to believe that we fall out of that category and will be the only persons there), Bibury is well worth making the effort to visit.  It is situated close to Cirencester, one of the most important Roman towns in the UK, with its wealth of history and it is also within easy reach of Oxford.  If I had to choose only one place to take a visitor to see, I think that Bibury would be highly placed on the list. 

Let me know – especially overseas readers, please – which would be the one place that epitomises old rural living in your country.

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15 thoughts on “"The Most Beautiful English Village"

  1. Bibury is absolutely the pretty English village I love. Have been there before and just back from a Cotswold walk around Stroud. I admire the tranquility life.

  2. Thank you for your response Terrie – I'm so pleased you love it too! Living as I do in the Cotswolds, I pass through Bibury quite frequently yet every time is as pleasing as the first.You may be interested to know that you can now also follow Life in the English Cotswolds on Facebook too. In time, there will be lots pof little details on there that won't make an appearance in the blog ….Johnson

  3. How beautiful. My Aussie friend would be faint with delight to see this :-)We live not far from Lacock and that has almost a film-set atmosphere. I gather there are rules about not leaving wheelie bins where they can be seen!

  4. I'd forgotten about Lacock – that certainly must also be high up on the list!As for wheelie bins they are rather a mixed blessing, aren't they? Some pavements are completely cluttered up with them – especially around Bicester, for some reason!Johnson

  5. Beautiful! I would love so much to visit England someday and see villages like this! We have nothing to compare here in the States, being way too young a country, but I live in New England and there are some beautiful colonial-era villages in rural parts of New Hampshire or Vermont that fit my idea of old rural living.

  6. Thanks both for your comments. When I think of old New England I think of white timber boarded houses (whether that's correct or not, I'm not 100% sure!.As for Swellendam I've no idea at all – will have to check it out on Google images….That's the great thing about both blogging and travel – you're always discovering something new. Thanks for taking the time to respond!Johnson

  7. Bibury is such a quaint village, I like it so much. I visited it last October and I didn't have my camera with me, so I want to go back again. Cristina x

  8. So stunning! Thanks for taking us on a tour of this simply stunning village. I love the fact that even the weeds, that only grow in a few spots, are the more beautiful looking weeds anyway. Oh how I wish I could visit! Loved the photos and the narrative.

  9. When I remember all the villages and towns friends have touted us round, over in England, it is this town that I recall most especially. It is truly a gem and a stunningly beautiful place to visit. Precious in fact..truly precious.

  10. When we visited the Cotswolds in the summer of 2006 it rained the entire time we were there. We didn't mind so much though as rain is always wanting in these parts; the cozy beauty of the Cotswolds is such a contrast to the rugged beauty of the Flinders Ranges. Wonderful blog with lovely pictures – I shall return. :)~S.

  11. Thank you, Sorcha, for taking the time to comment, it is always much appreciated.I'm so glad to read that you enjoyed your visit to the Cotswolds even if the weather wasn't too kind. Hopefully, better luck, if you should visit again.Apart from my blog here, there is also a Facebook page – Life in the English Cotswolds – which has frequent updates. Do visit it and click the 'like' button to be notified of them.Johnson

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